Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What Envelope?

The JFK 50-mile Run was started as an initiative of President Kennedy to challenge the country, and specifically the military to get in shape. Image from the JFK 50 website.

I can't say that I have enjoyed any of the 20+ mile runs I have done. Sure, there were parts or stretches I dug. And the sense of accomplishment--the whole experience is somehow sadistically addictive. The shock value of telling people you are running some crazy conglomeration of miles always creates some interesting reactions.

Maintaining a fitness level to run 10Ks to half-marathons is a sort of life goal. I like those distances and once you are there to being able to run and improve at those races, the amount of work to stay there isn't unwieldy. I have heard, and can see why, that 10 miles is called the perfect distance for races--long enough that you have to work, but short enough that you don't have to punish yourself (too much).

So why today did I send in registration forms for Mike Keene and me to sign up for the JFK 50-Mile Run in November? The "because it's there" mountain climber rationale somehow seems cliche. The short answer is that I don't know, though I guess that's not completely true either.

I subscribe to the notion that you've only got so long on the planet and you owe it to yourself, God, Creation, Life, what-have-you, to push the envelope. To find out what I am capable of. To do things that raise eyebrows and question sanity. Yet sanity is relative, to be sure.

At the runners' dinner before the Holiday Lake 50K++, Mike K. and I sat with a group of ultrarunners from northern Virginia. None of them fit the archetypal runner description. Yet they, and so many people there, dropped past 50-mile and 100-mile races around like fishing stories, minus the ego, plus the scars, photos, finisher's medals to prove it.

I probably read too much. But it is easy to get inspired and motivated by the stories of 25-time Western States finisher Tim Twietmeyer; by meeting David Horton or Dean Karnazes; by talking to Don Marvel; or following Scott Jurek, Hal Koerner, Nikki Kimball or Krissy Moehl. I can't wait to see what happens when Karl Meltzer and Jurek go toe-to-toe at the Hardrock 100 this year.

I have at times been one to fling, rather than push, the envelope--body, mind, spirit. I remember well 12 years ago the first time I ran farther than 10 miles; two years ago the first time I ran 20 miles; and this year pushing past 30 miles. I look forward to trying to add 40 and 50 to that list.

If you are interested to know more about the JFK, they've got a thorough website. Interestingly, the first ultrarunner I met, a crazy Marine-turned-lawyer named Brian Boats may be running this year as well. I met Brian through a close friend of mine, and he talked about running 50 miles and the JFK. We all thought he was nuts, myself included. Now, I am hoping to include myself in that kooky company.


Stephen Bardsley said...

mike, funny to read this entry today, as this morning at 6am I did a punishing 10 miles at Tuckahoe. I thought of my run there with you and Keene, and how much I enjoyed it. I cant wait to see you at the A10, and then at the JFK. Lets rip up the envelope! later, Stephen Bardsley

Anonymous said...

I still can't believe we're signed on to do such a long mileage race. Many will think we're nuts, others may think we're just stupid, but I hope there are some that really dig the idea of stretching oneself and discovering undiscovered territory. I know it is possible by some athletes; is Valliant one? Am I one? We will see as the time draws near. Many miles to go yet. Stay tuned. Keene